The Assassination of the American President
The act of the assassin
brings us face to face with a profound conviction that our criminal
system is seriously at fault, when dealing with crimes of the magnitude
of this one on the life of the President.
There can be no doubt whatever that
as the law now stands, there is no punishment that could be awarded
by a judicial tribunal at all adequate to the crime.
As at present arranged it is out of
the power of the judiciary to “fit the punishment to the crime,”
as is commonly said to be the duty of the judge.
The punishment the law metes out to
this criminal if McKinley had lived is a mere mockery.
It is difficult to imagine a suitable
punishment for the horrible wretch now that McKinley is dead.
The death of the man who occupies
the executive chair of a nation in its legal consequences, in the
eye of the law as it now stands, is simply murder, no more so than
if it was the coachman or the gardener of the President.
This is where our law needs reconstruction.
The act was intended by the assassin wholly outside of the personality
of the victim.
It was not in the slightest degree
personal, nor in any sense due to any official act of the President
nor from any personal feeling against him. It was a crime against
our civilization as a people.
It was not even in condemnation of
any act of Mr. McKinley’s life in the high office he held.
It was a blow struck in the face of
mankind, against any attempt to establish a form of government for
the regulation of the rights of the citizens of a great nation.
It was the same spirit that smote
the King of Italy, and the other members of ruling families, of
the thrones of the Old World in recent crimes of a like character.
It was not in revenge for alleged
wrongs, as the Nihilist threatens the rulers of Russia.
It was the outcome of that spirit
of anarchy that is new to our day, not the killing of unjust rulers
to redress public wrongs, but was an apparently concerted effort
to prevent the existence of a government here, based on the will
of the majority of the people, to govern the American nation under
its written constitution.
How are we to meet this wonderful
condition? The assassin of Lincoln acted from entirely different
motives. Booth was not an Anarchist.
Guiteau, who slew President Garfield,
was simply a lunatic, and the post-mortem examination of his brain
by the committee of the Medico-Legal Society showed it to be physically
diseased. It was the act of an insane mind.
It was fortunate for us that this
was a demonstration, and not a mere opinion. It is an incontrovertible
fact that Guiteau’s act had not the slightest tinge of anarchy in
either its design or execution.
This assassination of President McKinley
is not the work of an insane mind.
It is apparently the culmination of
a preconceived design and a carefully cemented plan.
In dealing with the wild beast or
the deadly rattlesnake we consider, that the right to inflict death,
as to an enemy of our race is an inherent right. Measured by every
standard available to human reason, the Anarchist who decides to
prevent the organization of human government by the assassination
of him who has been chosen to act as the head of the government
becomes the deadly enemy of the race, far more terrible than the
hyena, the tiger or the rattlesnake. 
It is not the question of the loss
of a single life. Mr. McKinley disappears, in the magnitude of the
crime against the rights of the American people.
Have the people, who are the real
parties to this controversy, the right, to so reform their laws
as to place the Anarchist on the same plane as the poisonous serpent
or the deadly wild beast?
The movement to class an attempt at
an assassination, by statute, with the same penalties as if it was
successful, does not reach the case. The combination that slew the
President may strike in the same deadly manner at his successor.
It is a stupendous question in our
criminology how to prevent this crime. The death of the assassin
is no adequate punishment for such a crime. The nation is now exposed
to its repetition at every public function. We should consider whether
our time honored custom of shaking the hand of the Executive should
be continued. Apparently no precautions can prevent a recurrence
if the custom continues.